In the history of popular music, there are several songs which have become gay anthems; usually in the disco or dance genre; this does not include the numerous ballads such as “Over the Rainbow” or “Send in the Clowns” that have garnered a gay cult following. Without exception their lyrics typically involve the ecstasy of sexual freedom, of unrequited love, and the ability to overcome; the ultimate example from the 1970s is Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” But, probably the first true gay anthem was “YMCA” by The Village People. At the time of its release, the gay subtext regarding quick-sex in the showers at your local athletic club went collectively over the heads of those not in the homosexual lifestyle. To boys just entering the gay world – its promise of innocent promiscuity would later reveal the hidden horrors of AIDS. Interestingly, the last major hit from The Village People, “Go West,” was playing on the car cassette deck as I drove to San Francisco for the first time: The Village People as harbingers of hope – promising peace and love in gay San Francisco.
In the 1980s, there emerged a more aggressive form of thumping dance music embodied in freestyle artists such as Shannon and by the British New Wave. The earliest English synth-pop group to hit big was Frankie Goes to Hollywood with their mega smash “Relax.” This song was incredibly successful at using what I identify as gay cue words. For, in homosexual sex: “relax” is a prompt representing the initiation signal for anal intercourse – usually spoken by the older dominant partner to the younger submissive initiate. The song was a none-too-subtle form of brain-washing or grooming – preparing future gay men for the rough and violent extremes of gay sex through the simplicity of song. This is also indicative of the ritualized aspect of this music and the acts they inspire. Nowhere was that more evident than in the career of Madonna in which the weird mixture of religion and sex reached an apogee in the song and video for “Like a Prayer.”
In “Like a Prayer,” Madonna goes after sex with a statue – a feat that would not be equaled until Katy Perry sleeps with an alien in her hit “ET.” In the music video, Madonna gets on her knees and gyrates in a mock religious ceremony; in fact, the undisputed Queen of all Gays, Madonna has repeatedly used the word “knees” as a cue for oral sex: “…I’m down on my knees, I wanna take you there” from “Like a Prayer;” “…He’ll be back on his knees” from “Express Yourself;” “…Like a calf down on its knees” from “Don’t Tell Me;” “…I fell to my knees, I didn’t know why” from “Incredible;” and “…I got you baby on your knees/I got you begging baby please” from “Some Girls.” Part of this submission through sex is a connection with self-expression, self-realization, and “coming-out.” For example, as Perry followed Madonna, Madonna followed the gay liberation lineage begun by Diana Ross in another gay anthem: “I’m Coming Out.” This theme was later taken up again by Madonna wanna-be Lady Gaga who heavily sampled “Express Yourself” for her single “Born This Way.”
Over the years, every one of these songs have become rallying cries for their perspective different generations: from the call to sexual liberation in the 70s to the current irrational need for universal acceptance symbolized by gay marriage. Among the young and the impressionable, this music means much more – it offers instant identity; and for the alienated and the lonely, it encourages a false sense of belonging and a hope that everything will be okay; i.e. Macklemore “Same Love.” But, what it holds forth is a lie; there were no endless parties at the YMCA – only degradation and disease; relaxing briefly eased the pain for a few moments – then, it returned even worse than before; as for submitting on your knees to the rule of homosexuality – this so called freedom quickly turned into enslavement.